Good start to 2016

Both the Caribbean 600 and the Round Ireland team filled before Christmas and bookings are going well for spare spaces on races plus RYA courses. We already have some bookings for the Round the Island race, Cowes Week and the new Royal Ocean Racing Club 400 race. This leaves a couple of spaces in the Team for the Nab Tower race weekend on Friday evening 8th April and one for the RYA 3 day course starting evening of Thursday 7th April plus 4 for the easy sailing weekend on 6th May. One of the new sails is finished and the other should be ready by Friday and the lift out is on schedule for mid February.

Sydney to Hobart Win

Helsal 3 with Paul as a Helm and former Wild Spirit Oli trimming took first in PHS Class 1, Divisional Line Honours and first Tasmanian Yacht to finish in tough race that saw 31 of the fleet retire including last years winner Wild Oats.

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2015 Report

It is Boxing Day, it must be Sydney. Of course it is, my 6th Sydney to Hobart race and 4th on Helsal 3. This year is a bit different though as the boat is almost ready to race. The training took place roughly to plan and under the influence of new co-owner Dr Paul Mara the admin happens smoothly.

I have sailed with more than half the team before but I am not skipper this year, just helm, which relieves me of a considerable burden. I have run into a few old friends and had a couple of good meals at our favourite Thai restaurant but really we are quite focused this year and ready for the start.

The helicopters buzz overhead, it is a fine day so up to a quarter of a million live spectators vie for positions whilst we do the final preps, team photos etc. The start is always a high tension time and with its restricted space plus hundreds of spectator boats plus ferries the Sydney to Hobart is worse than most. Doc P has insisted on a strict starting position regime and I am in charge of the mainsail, effectively the accelerator and brakes.

We get a good start, not brilliant, but Rob on the helm avoids other yachts which is more than some do, with one yacht not even making it out of the Harbour. It is over 600 miles to go so being 10 seconds late crossing the start line doesn’t matter so much.

In 20 knots of wind we are sailing fast and with over 100 entrants it really is a bit crowded, another collision near to us but I can’t watch as I have just too much too work do to help us keep clear of the rest.

Now the S2H is big news in Oz and the yacht which has won for the last few years is heavily sponsored by a TV station, so when severe weather was predicted for the first night of the race it moved from the sports slots to the main news slots. Particularly poignant for us as Steve who is doing his first S2H was a Helicopter winch man who rescued 4 sailors off Winston Churchill during the infamous 1998 race, 3 more died. He remains slightly apprehensive but somewhat re-assured by our 3 Man over Board practices, the last of which included recovering Tess from the water. (She volunteered, with sharks around we wouldn’t have thrown her in).

We do well getting out of the Harbour and are in front of several faster boats and alongside a colleague of mine skippering Woteva with a mainly UK team. Our team is mainly Australian with just 2 from our UK ‘Wild Spirit’ team.

With 25 knots of wind from the North east we run quickly under spinnaker towards the forecast gale or ‘Southerly Buster’. A couple of minor sea-sicknesses but the team is working well and watches commence at 1800 with mine starting at 2100.

We charge on under spinnaker, one rips so another is quickly hoisted, the hull starts to purr around 15 kts; surfing down some big following waves we top 20 kts, then it goes dark in front of us. I am helming and watching the huge dark roll . . . → Read More: Sydney to Hobart Win

A new little Wild Spirit

Bruce the Fastnet team No 2 and my eldest daughter Eleanor have produced a little Wild Spirit. Anna Sophie Garrod. 3 kg 10/11/15 and all doing well.

Pieces of Silver

2015 was not a cheap year, we replaced the engine and gearbox, bought a new reacher spinnaker and have just modified the Forestay and installed a new Facnor racing furler plus ordered 2 new sails. so we are well set up for both racing and RYA courses for 2016

We picked up a number of trophies in UK races on Wild Spirit, and finished 10th out of 115 in our class at the Royal Ocean Racing Team at the end of the 2015 UK season. With 3 ‘Wild Spirits’ on board the Wight Rose team Paul was Co-skippering took 1st on corrected time plus several other prizes in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race.

2016 Programme published

The UK race programme and RYA courses up to June are now on the site. Mile builders up to July are on and there will be more in August.

We are competing in Cowes Week followed by the new RORC 400 race and we are running the Round the Island team in a new format with a separate training weekend so those conserving leave or having to work on Fridays can take part in this classic event.

We have just one place left in the 2016 racing team at 27/11 but as one member is flying in from Oz for just the Round Ireland we will have at least one place on every other race.

Onwards and Upwards

One thing about the 3 Peaks Yacht race is the number of cups awarded. Here is the Wight Rose team with me in the middle, Shelf (Stewart Walker) on right plus Geoff West on Left who have raced on wild Spirit plus Gary Clayton centre left and Alex Pilkington centre right.First on corrected time, King of the Mountains plus a few others.

4th in final Cross Channel race of 2015

A great channel crossing, mainly under spinnaker, followed by a tricky finish against tide and light wind saw us finish the JOG race to Cherbourg 4th out of 12 in class. The JOG social scene was as good as ever and after a good meal out we sailed back overnight and those on my watch witnessed one of the best Moon sets I have ever seen.

Fastnet Report

The forecast was bad, not light wind; no wind. The start was difficult and a car carrier arrived at the wrong time so we had to motor back away from the start line and then return resulting in us drifting across the line 10 minutes or more after the gun. A slow sail down the Solent on a building tide and then out through the Needles channel and a view of the mis-named American Yacht ‘Lucky’ fast aground on the shingles bank on a falling tide.

It was clear that we wouldn’t get round Portland Bill on the tide and as the afternoon’s sea breeze died we sailed slowly south and west in mid channel on a flat starlit sea. Progress was painfully slow through the first night and into Monday. The day passed slowly as we battled to keep going the right way. Then a bit of breeze gave us a spinnaker run and a chance to see the new Reacher in action. The new kite worked but I had decided to carry the old AP one as well which meant leaving the heavy weather spinnaker behind as our handicap certificate only allows 4 to be carried on board.

Now the first bit of entertainment, a missed clip on a halyard and a pull sent the spinnaker halyard to the top of the mast. This meant someone had to go up and a ‘surge of volunteers’ meant it was me. We used the topping lift which is 8mm Dyneema and our reserve main halyard. Perfectly strong enough, but it meant going up aft of the spreaders, when the halyard to be retrieved was forward of them.

An unexpected wave sent me between the mast and the spreaders so, having unwrapped the halyard from the top of the forestay I came down the forestay behind the spinnaker. This led to the need to have to pass a line through the triangle between the second spreader and the mast. Rigger suggested throwing a line and this became an interesting diversion. With the end of the wooden spoon we made a hole through an apple then threaded it on a line and taped it up. We now had an aerodynamic weighted line that wouldn’t damage the deck. After quite a few attempts it worked but during the recovery of the topping lift the rope tied to the apple line was not heavy enough to fall down over the spreader, so a bag with a Melon in was attached, hoisted and deftly swung through the triangle then lowered to the deck, unfortunately the line attached to it got jammed so I had to go up again on the halyard I had recovered whilst we plodded on under spinnaker in light winds.

Some team members had booked flights on Saturday to go to the Edinburgh Fringe and they were getting worried about missing them. I re-assured them they would be on the fringe as they would be in Plymouth.

We plodded on past Plymouth and the wind forecast suggested there would be a bit more wind than had previously been predicted, we saw a whale, the dolphins arrived, we trimmed the sails and headed laboriously on towards the Scillies.

We were north of the Scillies when the wind picked up and our speed increased, we calculated the best course to keep a bit of west in hand for when the wind veered, which was due as we reached the traffic separation scheme near the Fastnet rock. 305 degrees was the desired course but I called for 300 and checked with the . . . → Read More: Fastnet Report

Fastnet

The Fastnet starts on Sunday 16th at 1220 and you can follow our progress via the satellite tracker http://www.rolexfastnetrace.com/ With 390 entrants it is the largest Offshore race in the World. The current forecast is for light winds, which doesn’t suit us, but the team is ready and with a bit more breeze we will again attempt to finish in the top half.